- Joe Lilly
10 useful tips for traveling around Croatia
First time traveling around Croatia? We have been feeling like it for the first year of living here. One of the most common things we see with our guests is a parking fine slip after the first day or two. We got our fair share of them too during the first months of living in Croatia; and have been through several other silly situations that made us feel like newborn babies. Here, we offer 10 most usefull travel tips to help you enjoy the ultimate Croatian vacation, without losing your money, mind or friends. We’ll start with parking, since that's the most common "offense" among our guests.
Paid parking is a norm, but paying for it is not a common knowlede for those who come from elsewhere. It requires planning ahead and having lots of lipa (our coins).
Most parking areas have parking machines. They are tall and stick up above the cars. The machines take coins, not credit cards. We pay per hour, anywhere from 3 to 7 kn, depending on the parking zone. It's best to pay ahead of time, because if we arrive later than what we paid ahead for, the likelihood of finding a fine slip on our windshield is high. Cities hire extra people during summers to patrol parking lots.
Many cities say that they have daily, weekly, or monthly parking cards, but they don't tell us where to get those. We can't get them at the parking machines. Some cities, like Sibenik, have a phone app. Others, like Tisno, offer us to buy a monthly ticket at an office of the agency that is in charge of parking. How do you find out this info as a tourist, I am not sure.
Free parking is available in residential neighborhoods,if one is looking for a parking adventure. We can offer specifics for some cities, like Sibenik, Zadar and Split.
If one rents a car, the parking fine of 100 kn will need to be paid at the time of returning the car.
If one parks at a gated lot, there is either a manned booth to pay for parking right before exiting, or a booth to pay with paper money and coins around the gate area. We walk to the both and pay. Paper money woks here.
Renting the smallest car possible is the way to go. The parking spaces are narrower and shorter than in the US, giving one an opportunity to brush up on one's parking skills.
2. Choosing the best airline
Over the years, we have flown many different airlines coming from the US to Croatia, and the one airline that was the most reliable and problem-free has been Lufthansa. They are ranked as the best European airline and have among the lowest rate of lost luggage.
3. Finding the lowest fares
We use Scotts cheap flights, Google Flights, and Hopper phone app. Some of our friends got tickets for 7-8 hundred dollars, off season, into Zagreb. The best deal we were told was $300 into Zadar, but that was a mistake fare. They happen rarely, but they do. Found through Scotts cheap flights. The earlier one plans the trip, the better deals can be found.
4. Best money exchange option
Airport exchange offices usually offer a lower exchange rate. The best practice is to get further away from traveling terminals and look for an Exchange Office in a city. They are fairly common and easy to find in most towns. There is one in Tisno.
5. Know your currency
When I first began coming to Croatia on vacations I was terrified to buy anything or spend any money. This is not a bad problem to have. Eventually I had to grow up and learn how to use Croatian money. The currency in Croatia is called kuna and lipa. Kuna is our paper bill and lipa is our coins.
6. Mobile wifi phone plans
Croatian phone and internet service providers offer SIM cards with 20, 100 or unlimited gigs of internet data for 120-200 kn ($20-30). The two largest providers with the best coverage are Tcom and A1. A1 is our favorite, with friendly customer service. All you need is an id and a personal visit to their office nearest to you.
7. Small airports, few food option
We bring snacks with us at all times. It happens so often that we run a short errand, thinking it’s going to take an hour or two, and we end up being gone for half a day and feeling emptiness in our stomacs.
If arriving to an airport at night, finding a place open to grab a sandwich might be a challange. Of a sandwich could be dried from sitting out in a case all day.
Traveling on a highway or local roads, finding food (or gas) can be a challenge, so planning ahead is a key.
9. Drive you crazy
Numerous articles have been written about Croatian drivers and everything I have read so far is true. From merging to parking, there is a big difference between driving here and in the US.
Let’s start with personal space. It is very small to non-existent. Some norms include: drivers, especially scooters, just about taking off side mirrors while passing; passing in a no passing zone, and returning to our lane just inches ahead of our car.
When approaching a red light and a crosswalk, for a while I would pull up all the way to the cross walk, only to realize that I wasn't able to see a traffic light when it changed. Sometimes there is a white line on the road to show where to stop. Other times, I use my own judgment and stop way before the crosswalk.
Turning right on a red .... NOT LEGAL. If there is a light on the right side as I am merging onto a main road, I respect it. If no light on the right side, I proceed with caution. The oncoming lane has a right-away.
Speeding here is a way of life. It took me some time to learn the speed limit, as they are not marked as often as I was used to from living in the US. Here, it is asu that everyone knows a few main rules. Through towns, the allowed speed is 50 km/hr; outside of towns on two-lane roads it is 80 km/hr; and on highways it is 130 km/hr.
Croatian police have hidden cameras to catch speedy drivers. They have undercover cars that follow a speedy driver for a while before they turn their blue lights on. They have patrols with a stop sign, and cameras set on the side of the road, taking pictures remotely. Driving about 10 km above the speed limit is safe, most of the time. If caught for speeding, the fine is 1000 kn and is reduced to 500 kn if paid on the spot. Every year the fines go up and the rules get stricter.
10. Sun of the beach
The beaches in Croatia have been voted as some of the prettiest in the world. Once you see them I am sure you will agree.
Most of the beaches are rocky or pebbles, small or large. Sandy beaches are scarce. We prefer rocky beaches, because they are more private, less crowded and with crystal clear water. Pebble beaches are favorite among families with children.
Besides the normal beach needs the two must-haves for me are a cheap pair of water shoes and a foam pad. My water shoes cost me $8 US years ago. The rocks hurt my feet, but stepping on a sea urchin near the shore is more trouble than I want to deal with. The foam pad for laying on the rocks makes my beach outing much more comfortable for my old back. Of course, I also take my mask, snorkel and fins, because the water is so clear; you can see 20 feet below.
Now, you're ready to arrive on the Dalmation coast for a trip of a lifetime. With all of the things I told you to bring there is one thing not to bring and that is too many time constraints. You are now entering Dalmatia time, and unlike its drivers, the time moves verrrrrrrryyyyy sloooooooooowly. So, like we like to say here at Lilly’s Cozy Cove, chillax and enjoy yourself!